What kind of stories are people drawn to? Are they ones about hope, change, spiritual connections? Or are they the kind that make people laugh out loud or hold their head in between their hands as
Taran Kootenhayoo’s White Noise is all of these things.
“All of the stories that I tell are those on the precipice of change, and I think that’s one of the things that I love about the late Taran Kootenhayoo’s work, White Noise,” says Renae Morriseau, the play’s director.
Presented by The Firehall Arts Centre and Savage Society, White Noise runs from April 16 to May 1, 2022.
“White Noise really puts the lens on the uncomfortableness of not knowing and the uncomfortableness of having to explain stuff as an Indigenous person,” says Morriseau.
The Canadian point of view, she adds, sometimes overrides our worldview and we have to fit in with this colonial mindset.
“What Taran created in a beautiful way is about how we claim our space for our language to rest in safety, for our worldviews to have meaning even if we’re not on our traditional territory and how we bring those teachings into the different areas we are in on Turtle Island in Canada,” says Morriseau.
For the director, White Noise is sort of pointing a finger at the literal realities people face with having to explain to Canadians or white settlers what the history of Canada is because some really don’t know.
Even if you do know the history, the play will also resonate with you, says Morriseau. This play is an affirmation for allies.
“It’s on the pulse of racial intolerance, and it’s looking at those stereotypes that Canadian society has of Indigenous people. I think that’s what Taran really nailed in a good way,” she adds.
A family affair
“When people ask me about the play I say basically it’s about two families: a Canadian white settler family from a wealthy upper-middle-class background and a group of Indigenous Nakoda Sioux Nation people coming together for dinner and all hell breaks loose. And it’s funny,” Morriseau explains.
All of the characters in White Noise fit the stereotypes of those who are Indigenous and those who are white settlers.
“That is part of the comedy of it. There is a little bit of everything in these characters that we each can relate to,”
According to Morisseau, Kootenhayoo really wanted to make it cringy, like when people are in a situation where everyone around them knows the answer but there’s one person that just doesn’t get it.
“What’s so lovely about the story is that it’s outrageous,” she says.
White Noise pokes fun at the threshold of white gaze and the good intentions of wanting to know more, but Indigenous culture is seen from a certain mindset and a lot of foibles happen, says Morriseau.
“One of the things that [Kootenhayoo] said to me was ‘when the show gets produced, I think we need to get a fight director’ – and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” she adds.
Taran Kootenhayoo’s world
“Sometimes our greatest pain can be the place of our greatest laughter,” says Morriseau.
She states that when Kootenhayoo began the journey of creating White Noise, Kathleen Flaherty, his dramaturg, really encouraged him to go back to the community he was from.
“I think within Taran’s world, there is a common understanding that sometimes we are tired of navigating the colonial static and sometimes we have to poke fun at it in order to elevate our own selves within the structures that we have to navigate,”
She also points out how Taran’s work is very salient because it can be shown anywhere in Canada and Indigenous people everywhere will understand what the concern is.
White Noise pushes questions of how Indigenous people can claim the space that has been taken from them by imperialism; how do they claim the space of their ancestors when their land was taken from them; how do they navigate their sense of identity, against settler reality in a really funny way,
“It’s a good piece to start the conversation,” she says.
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